Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lagos Speaker’s trial adjourned again, due to misplaced exhibits’ key


Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Lagos State Assembly Speaker. [Photo:]

Lagos Speaker, Mr. Ikuforiji, is being tried by the EFCC.

After suffering several adjournments, the trial of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, was stalled midway, on Monday, after the trial judge said that the key to the exhibits’ safe had been misplaced.

While leading a key witness in evidence, Godwin Obla, the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, requested for some of the exhibits he had earlier tendered before the court only for the judge to tell him that the key to the safe could not be found.

“As it is the key to where the exhibits are kept is misplaced. We have to take another date,” Okechukwu Okeke, the trial judge, said.

The development forced the matter to be adjourned till February 18, 19, 20 and 21, 2013.
Intrigue-laden trial

The trial of Mr. Ikuforiji, alongside his personal aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, over a N501 million money laundering charge has continued to throw up a lot of intrigues, forcing opposition parties to question the seriousness of the prosecution.

The court failed to sit twice in November after the prosecution failed to appear in court on both occasions.

On November 6, Mr. Obla was absent in court on grounds “of ill health.”

Two weeks later, on the next adjourned date, the EFCC counsel again failed to show up in court, saying that he was misled by
the court registrar on the actual date of the trial.

The cause of adjournment on Monday, after a brief sitting, also casts questions on the seriousness of the trial; the prosecution had tendered their exhibits eight weeks ago.

There have also been allegations of intense pressure as well as financial inducement on the trial judge to make him “throw the matter out of the court” in favour of Mr. Ikuforiji by the Speaker’s party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.

During the prosecution’s evidence on Monday, Adebayo Adeniyi, an EFCC officer who was involved in the investigation, told the court that Mr. Ikuforiji received cash payments which violated the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.

“From my our investigation, we discovered that cash payments above the threshold of law were made to or given to the first accused (Mr. Ikuforiji) through the second accused (Mr. Atoyebi),” Mr. Adeniyi said.

“In the statements that were recorded or obtained from the second accused based on these payments, he accepted collecting the cash on behalf of the first accused,” he added.

Mr. Adeniyi also said that Mr. Ikuforiji, in his statement to the commission, admitted receiving cash from his aide.

The EFCC witness also said that the Bulk Register and Chico Cash Register – two registers obtained from the Accounts Department of the Lagos State House of Assembly – “clearly showed” means of payment as well as the recipients.

Mr. Ikuforiji, who has pleaded innocent to the charges, recently declared his interest to run for the Lagos governorship seat in 2015.

GTBank SME MarketHub campaign